SHOPPING ON THE ROAD
Even when the goal is to buy the tickets and accommodations and not deal with money while on vacation, shopping usually becomes a necessity. Who doesn't leave something vital at home? And, of course, most people do make the effort to plan ahead carefully. For most travelers in the U.S., this is no problem, with familiar store names just about everywhere. But there are exceptions and special considerations.
I Came to Shop:
One couple I knew would leave on a trip with just one small overnight bag. Part of the purpose of the trip was to shop, so they built a wardrobe along the way and came home with luggage full. And each new piece of clothing or bauble had a story and memory attached. While this may sound very jet-setty, a family might consider something similar and combine shopping for school with a vacation. Instead of dreading the return home followed by shopping for school, everyone can have fun shopping in new places and the only problem coming home will be to find space for all the new goodies.
Many fine hotels in cosmopolitan areas are learning just how much their clientele enjoys shopping and they're putting together shopping packages. Such a package may include two nights' lodging, a meal or two, discounts at certain stores, and maybe even a limo ride. Hotels in cities like Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago are beginning to include these shopping packages, and are finding them especially attractive to couples on business trips and the like. And what a special trip to take a teenager on--truly a rite of passage into adulthood!
How Much is That in Dollars?
Shopping in foreign countries can be difficult enough, but then comes the exchange rate and making change. Keep posted on the exchange rates you will be dealing with ahead of time. Why not set the kids on this task? They'll learn how to read the daily rates in the paper, become familiar with the terms and rates, and might even be moved to go to a coin collector's shop. Many banks sell travelers' cheques in foreign currency and some even sell the foreign currency itself. You will probably get a better rate at home than abroad, and if you're really planning ahead you can watch the exchange rates and buy the cheques or currency when the rates are in your favor.
Don't find out whether you're dealing with lire or francs after you get off the plane. It's surprising how quickly you get used to a new currency, as long as you haven't wasted most of your cash the first day. Take your time! There are those folks everywhere who will try and hurry your money decisions or demand payment quickly in order to take advantage--be sure exactly how much you are paying and exactly what for before you hand over the money. Don't find you paid triple the price when you're three blocks away.
After you really get into the swing of things shopping abroad, it's time to stop and remember two things: luggage weight and going through customs. Unless you're flying first class or are taking a cruise ship, there are per person weight limits for overseas luggage. That great deal may not be such a great deal if you have to pay by the pound to get it home. Personally, I enjoy sending purchases home by mail as I buy them. Yes, the postage is an added expense, but each purchase will go through customs individually, most reputable shops will pack and ship for you directly, you don't have to lug the extra weight, you won't break or lose your new purchases before they even get home, and after you've settled in at home, all these great gifts will start arriving. And, if the purchases are gifts for others, you know they'll love the surprise of receiving a special package from abroad. When you show the value in the foreign currency, it won't be an obvious price tag. Finally, you'll thank yourself when the luggage coming home is actually lighter than when you left, having used up some things along the way and shipped others home. Some people actually mail their dirty clothes home as they go, which might make sense if you're going from the arctic to the tropics!|
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